More Capitalist Fiction

Not wishing in any way to turn this blog towards the direction of politics (Obooki has been very careful not to allow his own political opinions to intrude at all, though he’s had great fun implying his political beliefs wherever he can since there’s nothing a reader likes more than to make assumptions about the writer he’s reading, even though we all know you can’t derive anything about a writer from his work(or vice versa)), and not that I really believe I’m saying anything political (but it has been pointed out to me that that might be just a matter of opinion) – but just to bring up again a short point made in a previous post, Mark Thwaite (or at least his mysterious alter-ego Rowan Wilson) interviews writer Mark Fisher (Capitalist Realism) who says, a propos of why do you think capitalism has such a grip on our consciousness:

I’m not sure that it has a grip on our consciousness so much as on our unconscious. It shapes the limits of what we can imagine. It does so because it has enjoyed 20 years of unchallenged domination, blitzing our nervous systems with its intoxicants, paralysing thought. Put at its simplest, capitalist realism is the widespread idea that capitalism is the only “realistic” political economic system. The response to the financial crisis only reinforced this belief – it was (on every level) unthinkable that the banks could be allowed to crash. The problem is imagining an alternative that anyone believes could be actually attained. Which isn’t to say that an alternative can’t ever come about; in fact, after the financial crisis, we’re in the bizarre situation at the moment where everything – very much including the continuation of the status quo – looks impossible.  But this is already an improvement from how things seemed only two years ago. The financial crisis forced capitalist realism to change its form. The old neoliberal story was no longer viable. But Capital has not yet cobbled together much of a new narrative, or come up with any economic solution to the problems that led to the crash in the first place. It’s as if capitalism has suffered its own version of shock therapy.

As I say, this man has written and published a book which from its title (Capitalist Realism) one would believe contained something in its pages about economics – something I find difficult to understand in relation to the above quote, which seems to indicate no particular knowledge of or acquaintance with economics; – not of course, that I find it at all difficult to understand in relation to this quote, since it was clear to Obooki even before reading the interview that the work called Capitalist Realism was just that sort of bourgeois work which reveals the inherent bourgeois prejudices not merely of its writer but also of its readers precisely in its utter opposition to everything bourgeois – a writer and whose readers who are precisely of that kind who mock the complacency of the vast majority of humankind whilst reading and approving only those works whose opinions they knew they agreed with beforehand.

Not wishing to bog myself down in mockery, I’d just like to make one remark on the following one sentence (slightly rearranged):

The response to the financial crisis only reinforced [the] belief [that] … capitalism is the only “realistic” political economic system… – it was (on every level) unthinkable that the banks could be allowed to crash.

As we mentioned the other day, in 1929, the US administration – faced by a similar financial crisis – allowed the banks to go into liquidation. What we didn’t perhaps mention, but were thinking of, is the reason why the US administration had such little interest in saving the banks. What was there justification? – Well, they did so because they believed the market was right; they believed that if the market had caused the banks to fail, then who was the president of the United States to interfere in the matter. That is to say, they let the banks fail because they believed in capitalism.

This forms a nice argument, I’m sure you’ll agree: capitalism used both as justification for rescuing the banks and for allowing them to fail. I think we should easily be able to extend this to capitalism being used both to justify or not justify anything.

Of course, our writer goes on to mention in the next paragraph that “postmoderism” is characterised in part by “a destruction of the sense of history”. Hence presumably why we get views like Fisher’s that this particular financial “crisis” is in any way peculiar from any other financial crisis which has happened in the last, say, 150 years and demands some sort of “new narrative” or solution.

There’s insightful rubbish all through the article. Later on, for instance, he says:

it’s true that almost no-one working in public services is likely to be sacked if they get a poor performance review (they will just be subject to endless retraining); but they might well be sacked if they start questioning the performance review system itself or refusing to co-operate with it.

One wonders if he’s ever been in the public sector. For a start, everybody I’ve ever met in the public sector endlessly questions the performance review system, laughs at it, refuses to co-operate with it; secondly, training tends to be more a theoretical thing: people almost never get around to going on any training since there isn’t any money to send them on it. (A little story about training: my manager told me, after a performance review, that I should look into going on some time management training, since I couldn’t seem to manage my workload. At the following performance review he asked me why I hadn’t organised any time management training and I pointed out to him that I didn’t have the time management skills necessary to get around to organising it. The matter was subsequently dropped.)

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